Cryptocurrency Networking with Soumya Basu

Soumya Basu is a PhD student at Cornell, where he studies distributed systems problems associated with cryptocurrencies. Soumya is advised by Emin Gun Sirer, a Cornell professor who previously appeared on the show to discuss smart contract security.

Soumya joins the show today to talk about a variety of issues in the cryptocurrency space. We first explored the degree to which Bitcoin and Ethereum are actually decentralized–which might be less than you think. Because of the centralization of mining pools, much of the transaction processing is also centralized. After talking about decentralization, we got into Soumya’s research focus–cryptocurrency networking and block propagation.

Bitcoin transactions are collected into blocks. When a Bitcoin full node solves the cryptographic puzzle associated with a block of transactions, that full node broadcasts the new block to all the other nodes in the network. It is important for that block broadcast to be fast and efficient so that the other full nodes in the network can be made aware of the new block as soon as possible, and they can start working from the updated chain.

The problem of making all nodes in the network aware of a new block is known as “block propagation.” Block propagation can be accelerated through the use of relay nodes. A relay node is a node that is dedicated to communicating these new blocks throughout the blockchain. Soumya is working on a relay node architecture called Falcon–and in this episode, we talk all about what Falcon is.

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